Sunday, 29 December 2013

Looking ahead to 2014

Is it that time already? Sadly it looks like I'm not going to beat my record of posts from 2012. I'm near, but not there, and won't have the time to write a whole slurry of posts before the end of the year. But as we say farewell to 2013, it is also time to look ahead to 2014 and make some New Year's resolutions.

I didn't really referee an awful lot of RPGs this year. I managed to run a game of Hot War at the last Wintercon way back in January, which I thought went rather well (although I can't believe that was almost a year ago). I also ran some Savage Worlds more recently, and IIRC that was about it for me in the GM's chair. I didn't get an awful lot of board gaming in either, although more recently I've been playing a bit of Monopoly and Railroad Tycoon, not to mention Nuns on the Run, of course.

Having recently taken delivery of my pre-ordered copy of OGRE, which is the biggest and heaviest board game I think I'm ever likely to buy, as well as the recently released Firefly, I've had to take a long hard look at my gaming shelves and the reality of available storage space. Sadly, I must come to the conclusion that I really don't have the room for more board games - they are simply too bulky. I will need to become a lot more selective in 2014 when acquiring new board games. I notice there are a few still in their shrink wrap, which is not a good sign...

So, resolution primus has to be to cut way back on new board games. Period.

Once upon a time pilotless killing machines were a sci fi concept!

I anticipate that 2014 is going to be quite busy on the work front, and probably busier than 2013. This is partly because the funds industry is entering a boom cycle, and, as the saying goes, it is time to make hay while the sun shines. My aim is to work like a blighter until the wheels come off the wagon again, which they most certainly shall. Perhaps by then I'll be able to retire? What it does mean is that there is less likelihood of me writing my own scenarios in 2014 or finishing those I'm working on.

Paris night life - not what it is cracked up to be!
It may be that the upcoming new BBC adaptation of The Three Musketeers might tempt me to dust off my copy of All For One - Regime Diabolique, but we shall see. I'd love to also be able to play some Trail of Cthulhu if the opportunity allows. Luckily I have the long train journey into London for such activities. I felt I really got a little too rusty from not GMing in 2013. Resolution secundus must be to try to run at least three sessions, which would beat my record this year!

Finally, I need to consolidate my collection of miniatures. I'm too thinly spread across too many projects, many of which I'm sure I'll never get around to. Consequently, I'm going to be off-loading some of my unpainted lead and plastic in January. One project that looks certain to get axed are my 28mm Carthaginian and Roman armies. I just don't think I'm going to get around to this, and if I ever go back to large scale ancients, I'll probably start from scratch.

I really didn't do very much miniatures gaming in 2013, and hope to rectify this in 2014. In particular, I want to focus on my Colonial, WW2, Vietnam War and Middle-earth projects. These will be sufficient to keep me busy. I may look to play some Sikh Wars (1840s), perhaps with some multi-player action towards the end of the year. It is all a question of time really.

So, my final resolution is to try to get some more regular miniatures games played. That will hopefully also include some Blood Bowl, Warhammer 40,000 and Stars Wars X-Wing if we can manage it, not to mention Battlefleet Gothic, which has a busy and interesting Facebook community, if you ever have the inclination to join it. See you in the New Year everyone!

The 62nd regiment of foot at Ferozeshah.

Monday, 9 December 2013

WFRP - the Road to Middenheim

Okay, so I'll admit it - I'm going to try to beat 51 posts on this blog, which was what I achieved in 2012, and which would equate to one post per week, which seems respectable to me. We don't have much time left in 2013, so I had better get my skates on. Today, we return to the topic of our ongoing Warhammer FRP campaign, namely The Enemy Within, but the more recent version published by Fantasy Flight Games. What follows is chock full of spoilers, so please don't read it if you think there is any danger of playing in this campaign.

Readers of this blog may remember we had uncovered a Skaven conspiracy in Averheim to create the clapper for a magical bell, but if not, you can read about that here. Since then, rather more has happened in the campaign. I suggest you go over to our GM Kelvin's blog and read the next installment there, before returning here for the update below.

So, we resume the tale with our stalwart adventurers leaving Averheim on the trail of the witch hunter Adele Ketzenblum, who may be able to help us find the mysterious Black Hood. We are also carrying two boxes, one containing the magical clapper Rudiger stole from the Skaven, and one empty, really just a decoy. We were headed for Middenheim, where we hoped to meet the academic Robert von Oppenheimer, who the white wizard Konrad Mauer felt would aid us in destroying the foul chaos artefact.

Around this time, Rudiger graduated from mere Thief to Tomb Robber, and Magnar was muttering about raiding some barrows in the vicinity of our journey in his efforts to loot some plate mail armour. We decided to take a couple of days out to do some grave robbing, targeting the barrows of an ancient tribal people whose name escapes me, but who did a so-so job of protecting their tombs with traps. Luckily, Rudiger had Trap Finding as a talent, and those traps we did trigger fell on top of hard-headed dwarves, so no problems there. The undead, now, that was a bit more of a challenge.

Despite our best efforts to destroy the bones of the dead warriors we found in the tombs, some had been concealed behind false panels, and came to life. Although they were frightening, our collective team now has higher WP scores than when they fought the Skaven and were able to cope admirably. We also had Podo, our halfling surgeon, with us to patch up characters that were wounded in the affray. While victorious over the undead, we sadly found less loot than we hoped for, and no plate mail to speak of. Only Aelric was happy, having discovered a strange iron ring, which he caressed in an unwholesome manner as we trundled off in our cart.

It was decided that sticking around in the highlands was asking for trouble from the local tribes, especially as we were plundering their ancestral tombs. There was also the question of the witch hunter we were pursuing. We continued our journey into the Great Forest, where we were ambushed by a giant spider, literally dropping onto the cart out of a tree. Poor old Podo was poisoned and fell out of the cart, but the two elves, who had been riding ahead, dispatched the spider shortly thereafter, with Aelric demonstrating that his magic is becoming more lethal all the time. Podo recovered. Eventually.

We found the city of Talabheim closed against us, and the chaos horde that we knew was sweeping south. We were forced therefore to ask around at a local village about Ketzenblum, and they had indeed seen someone matching her description pass through. It seems she may not have entered Talabheim at all. We set off in hot pursuit, or as hot as you can with a cart drawn by an ancient nag, loaded to the gills with weapons, supplies and heavily muscled dwarf killing machines. Stopping at a coaching inn, Rudiger decided to have a quiet cider and watch the world go by, while Magnar and Torek had a drinking competition. Torek lost, but by this stage both dwarves were paralytic with booze. Which would have been fine had the Skaven not decided to try to steal the bell clapper from us in the night.

Luckily, there is a magical alarm on the clapper, and the Skaven thief only made it to the inn's courtyard wall before we were awake and armed and suitably alarumed - apart from the drunken dwarves of course. While Rudiger climbed out the window, Drandruel took a running jump out the window, somersaulting through the air to land on the wall. Someone needs to sign her up for the War Dancers if you ask me. The astonished Skaven fled cross country as quick as he could, but was hit by a quarrel from Drandruel's crossbow, and was nuked shortly afterwards by Aelric, who had managed to run around to the main gate to intercept him (hiding his face in his cloak, as he forgot his mask in the bedroom). The boxes were duly retrieved, with the ratman obligingly melting away to conceal knowledge of his presence.

Thus it was that we slipped away from the inn at dawn, before anyone could dream up any interesting questions about the night's events, and before the dwarves could get at the beer again. We knew we were not far from Middenheim, but we also knew there was a chaos army not far from us too. Needless to say, they obligingly decided to put in an appeareance...

Saturday, 7 December 2013

Dragonmeet 2013

I finally made it to Dragonmeet, despite still feeling under the weather. But I was well enough to struggle up to London for the day to visit a convention I have not been to for many a year. I used to be a semi-regular at Dragonmeet when I actually lived in London and had no kids, but these days my presence in Kensington for this event is rare. I think I've been to it only once since I moved to Brighton.

In previous years, I've tended to sign up for games I've not played before, but would like to try out. I've always found this is a good way to get a feel for how a game works. The other great thing about Dragonmeet is the number of creators, designers, authors and artists who are there. This includes not only RPG authors, but also some board games designers.

This year, I really wanted to check out some of the seminars, taking place in the council chambers at Kensington Town Hall, which look more like the venue for a UN summit meeting than any seminar room I've been to (other than the awesome conference chamber in the Centre de Conferences Kirchberg et Hemicycle in Luxembourg, which is more like the Senate chamber in Star Wars).

I attended a very interesting presentation by Ian Livingstone and Steve Jackson on the early years of Games Workshop, although they did concentrate more on GW in the 1970s and how they used Dungeons and Dragons as the thin end of their wedge into the UK retail market. But there were some very interesting insights into how Citadel Miniatures got off the ground, how the Games Workshop logo was designed, and why they wrote the Fighting Fantasy game books. I didn't realise that they had both sold out of GW entirely by 1992, and in the Q&A session afterwards they admitted that you can't control what your wayward children get up to after they grow up!

The other seminar I attended was the live podcast recording of the latest episode of Ken and Robin Talk About Stuff, which you can hear here, and which has become one of my favourite podcasts at the moment. It was great to meet Robin and Ken in the flesh, although they both looked a tad jet lagged to me! It would not surprise me to hear they only got into the UK yesterday. I had a brief chat with them about their new Trail of Cthulhu campaign, Eternal Lies, which they tried to persuade me to buy, even thought I told them Kelvin would be running it using Call of Cthulhu!

Apart from buying some lurid pink dice for my daughter, I also picked up a few other items I've had my eye on, including the latest edition of The Unspeakable Oath (to whom I owe an article, but they sadly have to get in line behind people with deeper pockets), Ashen Stars, the science fiction setting for the Gumshoe rules, and Shotguns v Cthulhu, an anthology of short stories from Robin Laws' Stoneskin Press. I also picked up some Fudge dice for FATE.

I had an impulse buy too - the softback version of Maelstrom - Domesday. Gaming veterans will remember Maelstrom as a fantasy RPG with a Tudor English background which appeared in paperback format in the 1980s, much like Dragon Warriors, and which has since been reprinted. I spoke with Graham Bottley or Arion Games, who has used a successful Kickstarter to re-release the game using a new, Norman England setting (1086 is the default campaign date). It seems like an excellent idea, and Graham himself is a very bright and personable character who I suspect will go far. One of the problems with meeting games designers in person is that they sell you on their idea and you end up buying their game - that's why I have Darkwood and Dark Continent sitting on my shelves, both games I'd love to run at some point, and how Malcolm Craig talked me into buying Cold City.

We also played a few board games which were left conveniently set up for punters to just sit down and play. And it was great to meet up with a few old friends I've not seen in a while, including Paco of GMS Magazine, and Charlie, whom I used to play Exalted and Vampire with back in 2004-06. A great day out, and if I can make the time (a very big 'if' these days), I will try to go again next year.